By Alyssia Gilchrist-McPherson
Talent Search is a federally funded program that serves 500 students in grades 9-12 at Jordan High School in Watts and Fremont High School in Los Angeles. The program began serving Cal State Dominguez Hills students on Sept. 1.
In 2015, the university competed with other colleges and organizations to receive a grant from the program.
CSUDH was granted $1.2 million for a five-year grant cycle with $239,000 to use each year until the grant expires.
Giovanni Ortega, director of Talent Search and another TRIO program, Student Support Services, says that the main mission of Talent Search is to prepare their students for higher education.
“We’re encouraging students that don’t want to – or just can’t see themselves obtaining a bachelor’s or associate’s degree — to look at certificate programs,” Ortega said.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, Talent Search is one of eight programs under TRIO, which are federal outreach and student services programs designed to identify and provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds.
At CSUDH, Talent Search, among other TRIO programs, are under the Educational Partnerships division of Student Affairs, which houses programs that reach out to the local community.
Ortega says that the Department of Education releases a list of “Title 1 schools,” which are those with students from low-income families.
With only 28 percent of college-ready students, and only two academic counselors, Talent Search chose Jordan High because it was in desperate need.
“I think it’s a little bit of a grade inflation going on in these high schools,” says Ortega. “They’re getting a 4.0 [GPA] but they are still testing into remedial classes when they get to Dominguez.”
The charter high school was in such dire straits that half of the original school was bought by its competitor, Green Dot.
Green Dot is one of the largest charter school organizations in the nation. It has bought out several LAUSD schools and replaced them with college-ready curricula.
“From 2008-2016, Jordan has lost 70 percent of their students to charter schools,” Ortega says.
In efforts to turn these staggering statistic around, students at Jordan and other high schools will have the opportunity to take advantage of “South Up,” a CSUDH-LAUSD promise program that guarantees college-ready graduates from local high schools admission to CSUDH.
To help them get there, Talent Search plans to provide test preparation resources, college/career counseling, scholarship assistance, academic tutoring, a mentoring program and workshops for academics and to help develop non-cognitive skills.